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For Whom the Bell Tolls


Find meaning through repetition and changing your how you communicate.

Level of Difficulty:





This came be run as small, two-person scenes or larger scenes with an entire team (for practicality a scene in an exercise like this should max-out at 4-5 people). In addition to the players in the scene, one observer should be assigned the bell.

Regarding the bell. You can use a simple chime on your phone but it really is best to have a phyiscal bell, something akin to what you may find at a motel.

Silberne Hotelglocke neben Schild mit dem Wort WELCOME (Wi… | Flickr
While any bell sound may be used, a traditional desk bell is recommended for ease and tactile delight.

Now, start your scene. It could be based on an emotion, a place, an object. It doesn’t really matter. At any point during the scene, the observer with the bell can ring any time. It is then the job of the players to repeat the last line they said, adding or embellishing to it (through tone, body language, cadence) but keeping the words the same. The bell-ringer can ring the bell once or many times.

For instance, in a scene about making dinner between two people:

This chicken is frozen, I don’t know if it will be ready in time for dinner

That’s OK, I’ve decided to be a vegetarian.

That’s news to me


That’s news to me (surprised)


That’s news to me (exasperated)

Well I posted about it on instagram

I just wish you had told me first.

I’m telling you know


I’m telling you know (matter of fact)


I’m. Telling. You. Know.


Notice how the scene can find comedic or dramatic effect through repetition. Also notice how a point can gain or lose meaning through repetition.

The bell might be rung once (let’s hear that again) or could be rung many times in succession (I would limit teams to no more than 5-rings at a time when getting started) to really build emphasis or to explore a point.

Practical Application:

I was torn between putting this game under Pattern & Game or Presenting & Communication. I think the exercise falls under both. From an improv perspective, it errs a little more towards pattern. But when considering our practical application, this is all about presenting.

How do we emphasize a point by repeating it across several bullets, or several slides? How do we reinforce our communication by repeating or adding emphasis to key parts of our story?

Repetition is key to communication, and at its core is game.

Credit: Thank you to Maria and Jen for introducing me to this exercise.

See More Pattern-Games

2 thoughts on “For Whom the Bell Tolls

  1. Hi I would like to come to this event but cannot find the link ?!!!


    1. Donna, The Jams are scheduled for the second Thursday of each month, at 8PM EDT. The next jam is Thursday, July 9th – the registration link is below:

      All the best,


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